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Rising Locust Infestation Threatens Egyptian Agriculture Amidst Sudanese Turmoil

February 20, 2024
Locusts in Sudan. Photo credit: Kypros

Over the past two weeks, swarms of desert locusts have invaded Egyptian borders from Sudan through land and sea. The swarm of desert locusts covering an area of one square kilometer consisting of 80 million locusts can devour enough food crops to sustain 35,000 individuals in one single day.

The spread of locusts in Egypt is not a heavily recurring event, but Sudan is no stranger to locust invasions. Yet, their spillover to Egypt could be a result of the current conflict in Sudan.

The ongoing power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to deaths, displacements, and a humanitarian disaster. The lives lost and the food distress in Sudan have rendered its people unable to combat desert locusts, resulting in the migration of the yellow desert locusts across neighboring borders.

The head of the Agricultural Pest Control Department in Egypt, Ahmed Rizk, said, “Locusts breed in Yemen, Sudan, and Eritrea, and given the conditions occurring in Sudan of wars and the spread of epidemics, locust swarms are increasing,” according to Al Arabiya.

Egyptian authorities are currently working to combat the locust swarms as they continue to approach. There are specialized teams in the southern Red Sea region that are intensively conducting operations in all of the governorate’s southern areas.

“The ministry is prepared by all means and methods to confront these swarms before they enter any provinces,” Rizk said, according to Al Masrya Al Youm.

Locusts are “the most destructive migratory pest in the world,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Effectively managing a surge of yellow desert locusts requires implementing control measures, including the application of chemical pesticides in small, concentrated doses by specialized teams.

With locust swarms moving unpredictably and swiftly, remote sensing technology and ground surveys are used to locate and eradicate locust egg pods, which typically reside in sandy soils approximately 15 centimeters below the surface.

According to a study published in Science Advances, climate change, intense wind, and rain can prompt desert locust outbreaks. Their increased appetite poses threats to the economy, environment, and agriculture, causing famine and damage to any area they invade.

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